Italy Did It Right

When Covid-19 first began to attract attention earlier this year, Italy was reeling.  As infection there spread rapidly and deaths soared, the U.S. paid scant attention and largely went into denial. (Which some in this country are still in.)

Now the virus is raging in this country, while it is largely under control in Italy

Here is an interesting article from The Daily Beast that details the steps Italy took to get things under control.

“ROME—The white square tent in the parking lot of an IKEA on the outskirts of this city looks like it could be a store display for the latest flat-pack garden gazebo. But behind the flap, health officials in hazmat are carrying out random screenings for COVID-19, a potentially life-saving measure and one of the most proactive ways Italians have found to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, at least for now.

Just a few months ago, Italy was in a very bad place, with contagion rates and deaths breaking daily records, just as we see happening in many American states now. Everyone from Vice President Mike Pence to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned back then that unless measures to mitigate the spread were put in place, they will “end up like Italy.” But in much of the United States those measures were taken too late with too little coordination and lifted too early. 

Every single day, Italian health authorities are finding thousands of asymptomatic COVID cases through random tests like the ones conducted in the IKEA parking lot. Since the screening started less than a month ago, nearly 21,700 asymptomatic cases have been found, isolated, and the spread contained.

Italians are conducting tests at shopping malls, summer camps, and at the beach. They can be randomly screened for COVID when they go for an X-ray or even at some dental practices. The screening is voluntary, but the health ministry says there is no problem with people refusing to comply. In most cases, people want to know if they have it.

The screening is often done in conjunction with serological antibody testing being conducted across the nation to determine how much of the population has been exposed to the infection. The nationwide antibody testing is being carried out by 700 Red Cross volunteers working to test a sample of the population from six different age groups categorized by gender, employment type, and where they live.

The highest number of serological tests are being carried out in Lombardy and the Veneto regions, which were the hardest hit. Lighter testing is being conducted in the south, where the pandemic was far milder but where random screening is taking place to make sure cases aren’t being imported now that borders are open. 

If people are found to have antibodies, they and their close contacts are then swabbed to determine if they have shed the virus or if someone in the immediate household is still infected. Those tested have to quarantine until their swab results come back, which is on average no more than 24 hours in metropolitan areas and slightly longer in smaller villages. 

People who have symptoms are also tested easily by calling the state health COVID-19 hotline, from which they are directed to the nearest drive-by testing facility. In the event they cannot drive themselves, health officials will make a house call.

Once asymptomatic cases are confirmed, the Italian health authorities engage in vigorous contact tracing made much easier by mandates requiring patrons of restaurants and other places where COVID can easily jump from person to person to leave phone numbers or emails. 

It is common to have to sign in on a tablet or notebook when you arrive at a restaurant if you didn’t make a reservation. (If you made one, they already have your phone number and name.) The alternative to these contact-tracing measures, for the restaurant or other establishment, is to risk being shut down if a case is traced back to them.

There are exceptions, of course, including bars and pubs that are largely closed for indoor service but allow takeout, meaning patrons spill out into the piazzas. To curb the potential contagion that a party atmosphere invites, authorities have closed down several popular squares where people were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, including the ultra-popular Piazza Trilussa in the Trastevere district of the capital. Similar mini-lockdowns have been carried out in Florence and Milan to try to stave off a second wave. In some cities, they have also forced pubs to close early on weekends to avoid inviting crowds.

The number of new cases found for each region is published every single day, and includes hospitalizations, the number of people in intensive care units, and deaths. The new cases are further broken down to indicate those from random screenings and those with symptoms seeking tests.

A civil protection spokesperson said the transparency allows citizens to gauge whether they should travel to an area where there is a new outbreak or even pay closer attention to their own behaviors when they are out of their homes. “Information leads to good decision-making,” the spokesperson said. “Ultimately it is up to the individual, but at least they are armed with the latest information.”

Because everyone worked together even when they didn’t want to (face it, no one really wants to wear a mask, especially in the summer), Italians are pretty much back to pre-pandemic life. Schools will open in September with staggered start times and open-air classrooms when possible, with regular screening for teachers. Nightclubs and discotheques likely will remain closed for the foreseeable future, but beaches, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters are open for business, which has made this Italian summer seem pretty normal—and, after all the sacrifices, downright enjoyable.”

When Did We Lose Our Soul?

We have all been told from birth that we are blessed to live in the greatest country any collection of humans has ever devised.  That whatever it is, we are the best, the most generous, the most caring, the most unified.  That there is no challenge we can not overcome.

Sadly to say, after watching what has unfolded in the U.S. in the last six months, my conviction that this is actually true is being greatly tested.

We have all had a front row seat to the pandemic that is ravaging this country.

Initially we were told that we would emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.  But will we really?

At the beginning we marveled as concerned citizens did remarkable things to help one another.  As heathy heath care workers from across the land risked their lives to help beleaguered and overwhelmed colleagues in New York City fight the pandemic.  We heard story after story of neighbors helping neighbors, of sewing clubs making face masks, of engineering students cobbling together ventilators, etc.

After all, this is the country that totally united after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  Men went to war and women went to work building planes and ships.  We rationed gas, planted victory gardens and salvaged metal.  We were all for one and one for all.  We followed President Franklin Roosevelt who had proven his leadership capacity by tackling the Great Depression when he became president in 1933.  We had faith in him.

This is nowhere close to where we are today.  After the initial surge of coming together, we have steadily fractured and allowed ourselves to be divided by “leaders” whose entire universe centers around themselves  We’ve injected politics into the most mundane of affairs.  We’ve derided citizens because of how they vote, instead of giving them equal due because they salute the same flag.

We’ve ignored health experts and tried to undermine world renowned scientists hoping to making poll numbers better.

We sent soldiers off to Viet Nam from 1957 to 1975.  By the end, 58,220 never came home.  The bloodiest year was 1968.  We lost 16,899 that year.  By comparison, we’ve lost 140,000 to Covid-19 since the first of the year.  Yet we have no national coordinated plan to deal with this pandemic.

It is a sad, sad spectacle to watch unfold.  To watch “leaders” who believe more in dividing and conquering than in healing.

We have all been taught that we are better than this.  Our parents and grandparents showed us the path.

And now, watching us lose our soul is hard to grasp.


Governor Ivey Mandates Wearing Face Masks

Governor Kay Ivey joined a growing list of governors around the country by mandating everyone wear a face mask to combat Covid-19, at least until the end of July.

Good for her.

This virus is roaring across the state like a fire travels through a pine thicket in the middle of a drought.  We have now had 1,200 deaths from the virus.  Some 1,933 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours.

I saw a Montgomery doctor on national TV say that if everyone would wear a mask we would be in much better shape in just six weeks.

Of course, the naysayers immediately took the governor to task.  Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, who is running for governor every day, said the order “oversteps property rights of business owners.”  I have no idea what he means by that.  But since when have I understood a lot of the mindless utterances of politicians?

And freshman Republican house member Will Dismukes just called Ivey’s action, “a ridiculous crock.”

In some form or fashion, those who oppose mandated face masks hide behind some contrived definition of “constitutional rights.”  By that I guess they mean things like the government saying you should wear a seat belt, or a motorcycle helmet, or not pass a stopped school bus, or drive more than 70 miles per hour on I-65.

Ask any of the naysayers if they are religious and you will get an immediate and chest-thumping AMEN.

Have they then never read Luke 6:31 that says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you?”

I wear a mask.  It ain’t no big deal.  If it will protect me from getting the virus, great.  If it might protect someone else from getting it, that’s great too.  It’s a very small price to pay for living under the form of government we have.  One where some people really do believe in Luke 6:31.

I think Governor Ivey did the right thing.  And most importantly, she did do SOMETHING.  The naysayers are just wanting publicity.  She wants to stop so many of her fellow citizens from getting this virus.




Will Someone Give Tommy Tuberville A History Book?

OK.  So we have come to expect politicians and wanna-be politicians to say dumb things.  We get bombarded by such every day on cable news.

We can now add Tommy Tuberville to the list.  As you know, Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions in the July 14 runoff and will face incumbent Democrat Doug Jones for a U.S Senate seat in November.  With the real campaign now about to start, Tuberville will be questioned much more by the press.

Along these lines, he was asked after defeating Sessions what he thinks about protests we’ve seen the last few months.  Here is what he said:

“This country was built on peaceful protests. We made a lot of progress in this country by protesting for women’s rights to vote, those kind of things. Nothing gets settled by people going out and taking the law into their own hands.”

Has he never heard of the American revolution?  This was the years-long war that took place between the brand new continental army and the British after we declared our independence.  It began in April 1775 and ended in September 1783.  Estimates are that from 25,000 to 70,000 Americans lost their lives while on active duty

If this wasn’t a protest what in the heck was it?  Tuberville should visit the Revolutionary War Cemetery in Salem, NY where at least 100 veterans who were killed in this war are buried..  I’m thinking that each of them didn’t think they died in a peaceful protest.

And this guy wants to be a U.S. Senator?  One thing is certain, he sure can’t be a history teacher.


Senator Marsh Says He Chose Words Poorly

Last week senate majority leader Del Marsh of Anniston stirred up a hornet’s nest when he told a reporter that it was OK with him if more people in Alabama got Covid-19.;

As might be expected when a politician says something this dumb, there was immediate reaction from both citizens and media.

Within hours, the good senator was saying that he made “a poor choice of words.”

In other words, his mouth went into gear before his brain did.

Not all who contract Covid-19 die, To date there have been 52,908 confirmed cases in Alabama and 1,093 deaths.  This is only two percent.  But guess what, not a single soul has died from the virus who did not have it.  Which to me means the fewer  people who get Covid-19, the fewer who die.

I got lots of emails from friends about my post on this topic, all of them wondering how Marsh could make a statement this stupid.

My response to all of them was simply, “How could voters in Calhoun County vote for someone this stupid?”

We should always remind ourselves when we rant and rave about elected officials, that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is in office because they got the most votes.  In other words, the bigger shame is not the poor choice of words by a state senator, it is the poor choice of a state senator by his constituents..

Senator Del Marsh Says More Alabamians Should Get Covid-19

After decades of listening to politicians, it would seem that you had heard enough so that ANYTHING another one said would not catch you off guard.

Would seem.

But in the case of Senate majority leader Del Marsh, not so.

As you can read in this article, Marsh just told a reporter for a Birmingham TV station that he is not concerned much about how many cases of Covid-19 people in Alabama get.  His thought process (which can not be supported by research) is that the more people who get the virus and survive, the better the chances everyone in a population will be immune.

Sweden pretty much took this approach by not locking down businesses, keeping grade schools open and depending on citizens to voluntarily take necessary precautions.  It didn’t work.  The death rate from the virus in Sweden as been 10 to 20 times higher than its neighbors in Denmark, Finland and Norway.

I don’t want to get Covid-19.  Nor do I want any of my relatives or friends to get it in any form or fashion.  I have heard from too many survivors about their struggles long after they tested negative.  I have heard doctors talk about the lung damage survivors will live with the rest of their lives.

And for one of the most  powerful politicians in the state to publicly display such a lack of concern for citizens is beyond comprehension.

But I have a suggestion for Senator Marsh.  PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.  If this virus is no big deal, then ask UAB if you can spend some time in an intensive care unit surrounded by Covid-19 infected patients.  Heck, you might even ask if you can hold a caucus of all Republican senators at the hospital and invite your buddies.

I’m guessing that you won’t have many joining you.